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tarifa - oct 2001

A couple of summers ago, I asked Rob at Planet Windsurf for advice on a windsurfing holiday in Tarifa. Great windsurfing but not so good for non-windsurfers unless they enjoy being grit blasted on the beach. In fact even windsurfers have been known to complain about the wind was his reply. This past half-term Judy, Mr. Flow and I decided to head for the sun (and wind).

There were very few flights available from Bristol and we eventually booked one last minute from Manchester to Malaga (2 ½ hours). The drive from Malaga to Tarifa took just over two hours in a car hired and collected from just outside the airport. The car was upgraded a few times as they were too busy to sort out a roof rack that I had pre-ordered .We were pleased to get past the one hundred or so kilometres of the built up Costa Del Sol coast line. As we approached the Andalusian hills the concrete jungle stopped, the hills above Tarifa are covered with forests of wind turbines, a very good sign!

We found an apartment about halfway along the road running behind the ten-kilometre beach to the north of Tarifa. The accommodation was very comfortable and we had a great view of the ocean and in the distance the windsurfing action. Secure storage for equipment was also included. The Tarifa web page details many different places to stay and has all sorts of other useful information

There are two local prevailing winds, the south easterly known as the Levente and the westerly the Poniente. Just before we arrived the Levente had just kicked in and I was told it could howl continuously for two or three weeks at a time.

The first three days we experienced constant gale force winds. I have never seen so many small sails, unfortunately the smallest I had packed was a 5.2 metre. I asked our host if we could drive along the coast and find less wind - huh! He pointed us north 50 Km in the direction of Caños de Meca. He was of course correct as the average sail in use increased from 3.0 to 3.7, still not a lot of help to me. Caños de Meca by the way is the local and very popular wave spot. The wind was blowing cross-shore and the waves were I guess about four to five feet. We sat on the beach protected from the wind by a bush in glorious sunshine and watched a number of very good sailors wave riding and getting serious air with all manner of rotations.

Fortunately for me the wind dropped on the third day to a moderate force five to six. Access to the beach at Tarifa is good and there are a number of sailing areas which are described on the local web site. Parking is easy and you can rig on grass or the beach. I guess it would however be very busy in July and August. The south-easterly wind came from the land. I chose to sail from the Dunes at the far end of the beach, at this point the wind was just cross off. The wind direction did vary from day to day by a few degrees and beach selection would make a difference to your day's sail. There were no waves as such but some very steep chop which when hit with the sail sheeted in you could not fail to get air. The water temperature was similar to that experienced in a UK summer, some sailors used shorties but most summer wet suits.

If you do choose to visit Tarifa out of season and want to hire kit, check before you go. I found only the Club Mistral centre to be open. If you take your own kit you will need a range of sails from 6.5 metres down to a handkerchief. The conditions can vary greatly.

Tarifa is a great little town. There are many wind and kite surf shops, which open throughout the year with some good deals. Old Tarifa is a maze of alleyways and is good for exploring and has plenty of different places to eat. For the non-windsurfer or older windsurfer who cannot sail all day Gibraltar is close and a ferry trip to North Africa sounds really good. There also seemed to be plenty of walking and biking routes and many different beaches to explore.

Would we go again is the 64 thousand-dollar question. The answer from both the windsurfer and the non-windsurfer is yes - next Easter's flight has already been booked.

Phil Baker

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